USMC OCS Graduation: Quantico

Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA is home of Officer Candidate School and the crossroads of the United States Marine Corps. No matter if  your Candidate is in the first few weeks of training or nearing completion, one thing is certain – graduation can’t come soon enough. Here’s our overview of USMC OCS Graduation: Quantico.

Right now, your candidate is being tested physically and mentally to ensure they will have the leadership skills to lead Marines and win battles. OCS graduation is an incredible experience creating lifelong memories –  memories you won’t want to miss. 

With over 50 years of military experience, Sandboxx has compiled some great graduation FAQs and tips to make your trip to graduation very rewarding. Let us help you take the worry out of your travel, and allow you to focus more on supporting your candidate.  Before you know it your loved one will be commissioned a United States Marine 2nd Lieutenant and begin their journey as one of America’s best leaders.

Click below to jump to a specific section or read on for the full article.

OCS graduation location
Airports to fly into
Best hotels
Getting on base
Who can attend graduation
What to wear
Where to eat
Family day events
Graduation day events
After graduation


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Officer Candidates School (OCS) is located onboard Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, VA nestled among the thousands of  northern Virginia trees. Your candidate is becoming very familiar with those trees as they spend a majority of their time running obstacles and hunting for checkpoints to hone their navigational skills.  Quantico is a quick 45 minute drive south of Washington D.C. and a 20 minute drive north of Fredericksburg, VA.  

The base can be entered from two exits, north and southbound lanes of I-95, leading directly to the main gate. MCB Quantico is divided into two separate areas, the OCS training area on the backside of the base, and Quantico’s main business district and Marine Corps Exchange (shopping/food). There will be signs directing you to OCS, but feel free to explore the base if you arrive early. Families are allowed to enter the Exchange as well as the stores located in Quantico Town (Q-Town). Don’t worry – If you get lost there will be plenty of young Marines in uniform at the ready to provide directions.

Washington DC offers several airports: Dulles International (IAD), Reagan National (DCA) and Baltimore (BWI). Most families fly into the convenient Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport 36 miles from the base and often has the lowest fares. You can also choose Richmond International Airport (RIC) located in Richmond, Virginia 86 miles south of the base. Keep in mind your new Marine will want to enjoy the sites of Washington DC after graduation, such as the famous Iwo Jima Memorial. If you are staying over to Saturday, you may consider reserving a hotel in Washington DC.

Quantico is conveniently located by several communities  offering a wide range of affordable  options for hotels. Sandboxx Travel recommends staying in a hotel located near Stafford, Dumfries, Garrisonville or Woodbridge. If you are visiting Washington D.C. and northern Virginia for the first time be aware there is  always traffic. Staying close to the base will save you lots of time in driving. Most hotels allow you to book now-pay later so reserve now to ensure low rates and availability.

A government issued photo ID is required for anyone 18 years or older and are checked by the military police at the gate. Anyone 18 and older who does not have a form of identification will not be permitted on to the base. MCB Quantico is a working facility, which means both military and civilian personnel will be arriving the same time you are so you might arrive 30-45 minutes early to avoid the long lines at the gate.

To drive on to the base you will need your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. If you rent a car the rental agreement will serve as your proof of insurance.

Once on base you can use one of the many interactive maps that the OCS Training Command has put together for families and friends.

OCS Graduation does not limit the number of people attending Family Day or Graduation. Graduating as a United States Marine Corps Officer will be one of the greatest accomplishments of your loved one’s life, and all family members and friends are encouraged to attend. It is not uncommon for families with a party of ten plus to make the trip to graduation to celebrate the success of their new Marine.  

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The majority of activities are held outdoors with no shelter so make sure to check the local weather and bring an umbrella if it is rainy. If graduation is scheduled for the summer or early fall you will want to wear appropriate clothing for high heat and humidity, it can get sticky! However, Virginia can get cold and bitter during the winter months. The weather is can play havoc on the candidates training –  ask your candidate about the Quigley.

Casual dress is recommended for Family Day, as well as comfortable shoes for walking. Don’t worry about clothes for your candidate, they will be wearing the uniform of the day.

Graduation Day is considered a formal event as your candidate transitions from  candidate to Second Lieutenant of Marines. The graduation uniform is Service Alpha (get your cameras ready) so business casual is appropriate.

A steady diet of military rations and 10 minutes meals has readied your candidate for some non-military chow. During family day you can take advantage of several venues throughout the base, including The Marine Corps Exchange. The exchange has a food court offering pizza, Mexican food or subs (and yes, McDonalds). You can also head off base, but don’t wonder too far away. Your candidate must report later that afternoon – on time.

Quantico also offers a downtown (Q-Town) which has several restaurants Bap Zip Burrito House, Sam’s Inn Restaurant, Filipino Kitchen, My Deli, S & G Restaurant, Q Town Cafe, Domino’s Pizza, and Mulligan’s Restaurant. Q-Town also has a Starbucks offering a cup of joe your candidate might be craving. You can also choose the Clubs at Quantico for meals, but your candidate may choose to stay clear of too many high ranking officers.

Family Day marks the first day you will get to see your candidate! The Command at Quantico recognizes families and friends are anxious to see their loved ones and have graciously scheduled events beginning early in the morning (or maybe early morning is just a Marine Corps thing).

7:30 a.m. The Commanding Officer’s Motivational Run.
The motivational run will be the first opportunity to see your Candidate, that is if you can still recognize them. At this stage of training all of the Candidates look similar to each other and fashion the famous high & tight haircut. You’ve had weeks of practice playing “Where’s Waldo” on the OCS Facebook page so we have confidence you’ll spot them. If you miss your candidate running by the first time don’t worry they’ll run back the same way and pass you once more, have the camera ready (and Kleenex)!

Space for best viewing of the motivational run is limited families will have the opportunity to pre-stage themselves along the run route so plan to arrive early. It may take 15-30 minutes to find parking and walk to the run route so make sure you give yourself plenty of time in the morning. The OCS Training Command put together an interactive map so you can see the route they run and where the best viewing spots are. 

9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Family Day Orientation Brief
The family day orientation brief is an hour long presented by the Commanding Officer of OCS. The brief will provide an overview of everything your candidate has accomplished over the last ten weeks followed by a session of FAQs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions the CO has heard and answered them all.

The briefs are scheduled by company and you can find the exact time of your brief on the OCS Facebook page

Immediately following the family brief you will head back to the parade deck where your candidate will be dismissed for liberty (yes, liberty means FREEDOM). Get ready, this is the moment you’ve been anxiously waiting for, the first embrace!

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During liberty your candidate is free to explore the base, including the Exchange, Q-Town, or the surrounding off-based communities. It is not recommended to travel too far away from the base, such as Washington D.C. since your candidate has a designated time they must report by at the end of liberty. If you leave base make sure you head  back at least an hour prior to the end of liberty.

One attraction we recommend as a must-see is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The museum is filled with the rich history of the Marine Corps past, present and future.

6:10 p.m. – 7:10 p.m. End of Liberty
Depending on your candidate’s company, they will have a very specific time they will need to  to report back and be accounted for.  Don’t worry, they will be all yours the next day.

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9:00 a.m. –  10:00 a.m. Graduation ceremony
The graduation ceremony will be held outside come rain or shine on the famous parade deck, Brown Field. The seating is first come, first serve so make sure you set your alarm early enough to get a good seat. The seating for the ceremony are on bleachers and organized by company. If you want to get the perfect picture of your candidate make sure to sit in the right company section (follow the signs). Handicapseating is also available at the front of the bleachers.

The graduation ceremony recognizes all candidates who met the required challenge and successfully completed the demanding 10-week curriculum. These candidates are ready (and very eager)  to take their next step in becoming leaders of Marines. The top performing candidates will be acknowledged during the ceremony (you will be notified if your candidate is one of the top performers).

The candidates will demonstrate their close-order drill with an impressive pass and review (great time for pictures.) This is followed by a short presentation by the Commanding Officer and special guest speaker.

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10:30 a.m. Commissioning Ceremony on the Parade deck
It is finally here, the pinning (commissioning) from candidate to 2nd Lieutenant. The pride and honor you will feel for your newly commissioned Marine will be overwhelming so be sure have your tissues close by.

After the official ceremony, the Lieutenants will be dismissed  to conduct their personal ceremony where individuals, of their choosing, will officially pin on the famous gold bars, the insignia of a Second Lieutenant

Following the pinning ceremony, your new Marine will receive their first salute from an enlisted member of any military service they choose (this is a big deal, so make sure you have your camera ready.) Candidates will often choose their first salute to come from a Staff Noncommissioned Officers from their platoon staff, as they have played a significant part in the development from candidate to  Marine officer.

After OCS Graduation is complete your Lieutenant will need to check into Camp Barrett the home of the 6-month Basic School (TBS). The time it takes to report to TBS will vary so please be patient. Checking into TBS can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days so your Second Lieutenant might not be able to come with you immediately after graduation. But, will get the opportunity to take a few days of rest and relaxation before they head back to TBS.

The feeling you will get when you see your New Marine for the first time will be more than you could ever imagine. It is truly a special day and time to enjoy and celebrate with your Marine and family. There are many other questions you probably have, so please reach out to our SANDBOXX Travel Team and ask away.

Happy travels, and congrats to you and your soon-to-be new Marine!

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Author: Nicole at Sandboxx

The daughter of a United States Marine, I grew up with a passion and love for our troops, which led me to pursue a career in a field where I could give back to the military community. In my free time you can find me spending time with my significant other who is currently an Officer in the Marine Corps.

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